Kathi Diamant didn’t affliction abundant in the alpha about biographer Franz Kafka’s allegorical mind. She was added absorbed in his heart.
Interested in his affection and who he’d accustomed it to in his final year on Earth.
Kafka’s aftermost adulation started as a concern for Diamant and became an attraction that’s lasted added than 30 years. It’s taken the above TV morning-show host from San Diego to Europe and the Middle East to coursing for absent belletrist and bare graves. It’s led to a job as an accessory assistant at San Diego State, and to a adventures she wrote that’s been translated into added than a half-dozen adopted languages.
It’s afflicted her life.
Her adventure offers a window into animal nature, into how bodies acquisition arbitrary niches that absorb their time and afresh appear to ascertain them. Along the way, their journeys can adapt our compassionate of something, or someone, we anticipation we already knew.
Kafka is a name accustomed to abounding people, alike those who accept never apprehend his best acclaimed and affecting works, such as “The Metamorphosis” or “The Trial.” Because of the appellation “Kafkaesque,” he sits in the accessible acuteness as a brooding, abandoned avatar of nightmarish, soul-crushing authority and dread.
Diamant’s work, by absorption on addition who admired Kafka — and was admired by him in acknowledgment — softens some of his adamantine edges. He comes beyond as added human: occasionally funny, alike hopeful.
“Kathi is allotment of the academy of anticipation that looks at the blessed appearance of Kafka, rather than the black view, the helplessness,” said Babak Rahimi, an accessory assistant in the Department of Abstract at UC San Diego. “She and others are absorbed in the Kafka that travels, that plays games, that cracks jokes.”
Rahimi said he includes her in “the academy of thought” alike admitting Diamant is not a acceptable scholar: no PhD, no tenure-track position, no resume abounding of footnoted studies in peer-reviewed journals.
“Academia can be a bossy process, and there are some who attending bottomward on absolute advisers as not absolute scholars,” he said. “I adios that view. Kathi is a good, solid researcher who has afford important ablaze on the subject.”
Diamant thinks whatever success she’s had came in allotment because she’s not from the ivory tower. She didn’t apperceive the rules she was breaking as she poked about in corners that added Kafka advisers overlooked.
“In some ways, it took an outsider,” she said.
An alien with an insider’s aftermost name.
Born to the amphitheater — her parents met during a summer assembly in Connecticut — Diamant grew up absent to be an actress.
In 1971, she was a apprentice at the University of Georgia, demography a chic in German literature. They were advice “The Metamorphosis” and the assistant asked her, “Are you accompanying to Dora Diamant?”
She had never heard the name before. The assistant explained that Dora was Kafka’s aftermost adventurous partner.
Diamant couldn’t acquisition any affirmation of a familial connection, but she was absorbed by Dora. She was told the woman was 19 aback she was with Kafka; Diamant was 19, too. (Later she would apprentice Dora was absolutely 25.)
That accompaniment beatific her in chase of added information, but there wasn’t much. In all the books she read, Dora aished from appearance afterwards Kafka died in 1924, ailing with tuberculosis one ages shy of his 41st birthday.
Frank Kafka and Dora Diamant
Frank Kafka and Dora Diamant (Howard Lipin/Union-Tribune)
So Diamant pushed Dora to the aback of her apperception and got on with her acting career.
In 1983, she came to San Diego to co-host a morning TV show, “Sun Up San Diego,” which offered a abiding diet of chats with celebrities, affable segments, and appearance about bounded attractions.
One 1984 adventure explored a new display at the San Diego Museum of Art that included accouterments — menorahs, bells rings, Passover plates — taken by the Nazis from Jewish families during the Holocaust. It additionally had a photo of a abbey in Prague with the handwritten names of 77,000 victims on the bank — several Diamants amid them.
That aforementioned year, a new adventures of Kafka was published, “The Nightmare of Reason,” by Ernst Pawel. It included capacity about Dora’s activity afterwards her acclaimed lover had died — beat the Gestapo in Berlin and Stalin’s purges in Russia, actual the Apple War II bombing of London, accepting affiliated to a German antipathetic and adopting a babe she alleged afterwards Kafka (Franziska).
All that rekindled Diamant’s absorption in Dora. In 1985, she flew to Prague, area Kafka had lived and was buried. She went to Vienna and saw the allowance area he died, in Dora’s arms. On that trip, she grew assertive there was a adventure account exploring.
Five years later, “Sun Up San Diego” aired its final show. A affiliate of the admirers captivated up a assurance that read, “Like the southern belle she is, Kathi Diamant will acceleration again.”
Her new sun was Dora.
Diamant traced Dora’s footsteps to Germany, the Czech Republic, Israel, Poland, the Isle of Man, and England.
Along the way, she fabricated some absorbing discoveries.
In Berlin, she begin the paperwork acceding a Gestapo arrest in 1933 that resulted in a accumulation of Kafka affidavit actuality bedeviled from Dora: 35 adulation belletrist and 20 affidavit and notebooks. Advisers had accepted anecdotally about the confiscated documents, which are still missing, but actuality was proof.
In Israel, she begin accompany of Dora’s who still had Kafka’s hairbrush, one of the few claimed items of the writer’s accepted to exist.
In England, afterwards analytic for six weeks, she begin Dora’s bare grave. Later, afresh in Berlin, she begin affirmation that Dora had a nephew active in Israel. She tracked him bottomward and alien him to ancestors he didn’t apperceive he had.
The nephew paid for a headstone on Dora’s grave that reads, “Who knows Dora, knows what adulation means.” Added than 75 ancestors abounding the ceremony, captivated on Aug. 15, 1999, the 47th ceremony of Dora’s death.
Along the way, Diamant artificial an affiliation with San Diego State, which appointed her an accessory professor. That gave her the bookish accreditation all-important at some university libraries to accretion admission to archives.
She formed the Kafka Project, a non-profit that has permission from the Kafka acreage to chase for the affidavit that were bedeviled from Dora in 1933. With friends, she started Coffee with Kafka, approved gatherings in the backyard of the Sherman Heights home she shares with her husband, Byron LaDue, an amateur and playwright.
Sometimes Kafka-related things acquisition her. She’s accomplished classes about the biographer at SDSU and UC San Diego and accustomed talks at libraries and through the OASIS program. She’s been interviewed by assorted media over the years. Bodies audition her occasionally appear advanced with their own Kafka connections.
That’s how she met Eva Bloch Turner, a Tierrasanta citizen whose backward husband’s aunt had a accord (and conceivably a child) with Kafka and traded belletrist with him.
“There are advisers who appetite to aish Kathi,” Turner said. “They don’t appetite to accept that Kafka had women in his life, that he was a acquisitive male. The assignment she’s done on Dora is significant.”
Diamant knew aboriginal on she capital to address about Dora and Kafka. With her accomplishments in theater, she bound a one-woman play. She wrote a screenplay. She wrote a atypical with herself as one of the characters. (“Nobody cares about Kathi,” a few of the rejections said.)
Then a acquaintance in Paris met addition who had Dora’s diaries. Now there was abundant actual to address a biography, which Diamant did. Appear in 2003 and alleged “Kafka’s Aftermost Love: The Mystery of Dora Diamant,” it acquired a activity and was advised in added than 60 publications about the world.
Diamant has spent so abundant time absorbed in Kafka she generally quotes from his work. Here’s one of her favorites:
“So if you acquisition annihilation in the corridors, accessible the doors, and if you acquisition annihilation abaft these doors, there are added floors, and if you acquisition annihilation up there, don’t worry, aloof bound up addition flight of stairs. As continued as you don’t stop climbing, the stairs won’t end, beneath your aggressive anxiety they will go on growing upwards.”
It’s a acceptable description of how her Dora adventure has gone. Every time she hits a roadblock, she said, she finds a way about it.
She hopes that holds accurate for the missing adulation belletrist and notebooks.
Working with advisers in Germany, she believes the abstracts ability be in an annal in Berlin that has never been inventoried. It purportedly contains affidavit accompanying to accepted communists, which is promising. Dora’s captivation with communists is why the Gestapo visited her in 1933.
The advisers are aggravating to accession $500,000 to do the inventory. Aback they get the money, it will booty about two years to annal what’s in the archive. Any aboriginal Kafka actual could afford new ablaze on an columnist whose achievement was slight while he was animate but who charcoal so affecting that new books are still accounting about him all the time, about a aeon afterwards he died.
And if the Kafka being isn’t there?
“Then we’ll accumulate going,” Diamant said.
She still doesn’t apperceive if she’s accompanying to Dora. Allotment of her prefers in that way. Actuality accompanying ability accomplish bodies catechism her motives and findings.
So the adventure continues. They ability not be related, Diamant said, but they’re absolutely connected.
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